Mesa State men’s hoops team showing resiliency

Kurt Bangle and the Mavs may be a hard team to get rid of, but they will have their hands full this weekend — especially against Fort Lewis, which has a talented big man in Kirk Archibeque.

Bob Hofman just might show up Saturday night carrying a wood or silver stake when the Mesa State College men’s basketball team enters Whalen Gymnasium in Durango.

“Mesa’s like Dracula, you can’t kill them,” the Fort Lewis College coach joked. “No matter what, they will not go away.

“We saw them in their toughest period when they lost to Western Oregon and were ahead at the half and lost to Dixie, then they lost to Kearney. Now, just like Dracula, they’re back.”
Mesa State coach Jim Heaps chuckled at the analogy.

“Definitely in a coma,” he deadpanned about how the Mavs played during a 2-7 span.

“This group is really close-knit, a really hard-working group,” Heaps said. “It’s not a group that’s ever going to back down from anybody, not a group that’s ever going to quit.

“Through that stretch when we were 2-7, they showed up every night and played hard every night. We didn’t always play well, but they competed and they’ll just keep doing that.”

So maybe the Mavs (10-9, 7-4 RMAC) are a little bit like Dracula. They’ve won four in a row and gone from deep in the West standings to third place, 11/2 games behind New Mexico Highlands (15-5, 9-3 RMAC), which the Mavs beat two weeks ago, and one game behind Fort Lewis (17-5, 8-3).

However, dealing with Fort Lewis doesn’t come until Saturday night. Tonight’s game at Adams State means every bit as much.

“Every game counts as one in the statistics,” senior center Kurt Bangle said. “Every game is big. Highlands spanked (Fort Lewis 93-80) last weekend, Adams lost to them by three and we only beat Highlands by three.

“It’s a conference that every night is going to be tough, every night is a battle.”

Bangle, a preseason all-RMAC pick, has struggled offensively all season. He’s averaging 8.9 points a game and 2.5 rebounds, but he’s making a more concerted effort to rebound and play physical defense.

He likes the contact in the paint and he’ll get all he can handle this weekend.

The Grizzlies aren’t a big team, but Saturday, Bangle will tangle with Kirk Archibeque, who transferred from Northern Colorado to Fort Lewis for his senior year. The 6-foot-9 former Montezuma-Cortez standout is one of the premier big men in the conference.

“It comes down to playing physical,” Bangle said. “I love playing against bigger guys because the refs tend to let up a little more when you’re pushing on each other. It’s funner.

And a lot of teams don’t like to double down (on the post) when they’ve got two big guys going at it because they feel their big guy can handle the other. It opens things up.”

Early in the season, Heaps said his team was a lot like those Hofman has coached, more guard oriented, and Hofman’s team this year is more like the Mavs of previous years, with a dominant big man.

“It’s been an interesting year,” Hofman said. “We lead the league in field goal percentage and points scored and I don’t know what the heck we’re doing.”

The transfer of Archibeque, who was on every Colorado college coach’s wish list coming out of high school, altered the Skyhawks’ game plan. Hofman said Archibeque isn’t one of those players who demands the ball all the time.

“Unfortunately for Kirk, he’s been part of a building program that’s never been able to win games,” Hofman said. “All Kirk cares about is being part of a successful program and he does everything in his power to create that. He’s one of the easiest guys to coach I’ve ever had.”


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